Monday, April 27, 2009

Movie Review: Zen Buddhism: In Search Of Self; Gong Jae Sung, dir; 2007

This is one of the better films about Zen and for a very simple reason. It doesn't preach and therefore doesn't get bogged down in philosophy and metaphysics. It teaches only by pointing the camera at its subject, the 90-day winter retreat of the nuns of Korea's Baek Hung temple. If you ever wanted to know what a mediation retreat is like, this film will give you a nice taste.

What you see is that the nuns spend a lot of time inside sitting quietly. This is followed by periods of walking in circles in the courtyard. Once in a while they go out for a hike in the surrounding mountains, or collect wood from the forest. They cook meals. On New Year's they do a lot of cleaning and praying and visiting of nearby temples. And that's about it.

Boy, but does that look like a tasty spread!

Of course if you know nothing or very little about Buddhism or Zen then you might be a bit confused about just what's going on. The Korean film makers, who produced this for Korean television, could assume their audience had the background to understand what they were being shown. And so they simply pointed the camera. There are one or two brief interviews with the head nuns, and a couple of scenes of the nuns chatting together, but for most of the film's 65 minutes all you hear are bells and wind and rain.

The film ends with the nuns leaving the temple:

Where did I come from?
Where am I going to?

Came with the cloud,
Going with the wind.

Then, what is this
that is coming and going?


1 comment:

  1. i enjoyed this film but the Tibetan New Age music in it seemed a little out of place.